When Earl Scioneaux III sold off all his video games as a kid to focus on practicing his music, it was just one of multiple devotional steps he would take towards becoming New Orleans's electro-jazz enthusiast and recording master—the Madd Wikkid.
For Scioneaux, music just seems like something he's always done. A student of jazz piano and composition from NOCCA, he started playing piano when he was four years old. As time passed, he tried his hand at playing and recording with homemade jazz bands.
"We were hacking our way through figuring out recordings early on," Scioneaux said. "That planted the seeds for me to go into production."
Eventually, those seeds would land Scioneaux a gig as the recording and production engineer for the house jazz band at New Orleans's historic Preservation Hall. He's since expanded his title to performer/producer and sound designer, among other things.
But before he became the multi-sided musician he is now, Scioneaux was living in Manhattan trading stocks on Wall Street. It was a nice job, and he made connections that would better serve his career later as a musician. But being a native of Kenner, he soon began to miss the spirit of the Big Easy.
"Over the course of three years when I would come back to visit, I realized how unique New Orleans is," he said. "I think it took getting away from it to appreciate it."
After deciding to leave his job in New York, Scioneaux told himself he was only moving back to the city if he could find a way to be a musician.
In 2009, he partnered with his roommate, who was working on a then-unheard-of crowd-funding website called Kickstarter. The site needed some initial projects to get up and running, and Scioneaux needed to raise a good chunk of money to cover the recording costs of his latest musical brainchild. So, Electronola was born.
As the first album ever to come out of Kickstarter, Electronola was Scioneaux's future funk, electro-jazz ode to New Orleans. Featuring an all-star cast of some of NOLA's most prized musicians, Scioneaux set out to capture the definitive articulation of local artists in an electric, live-music gumbo.
"There's a nuance about the way things are articulated and phrased when you have New Orleans musicians play," he said. "It's relaxed and behind the beat, but still in the pocket. I think there's a uniqueness to that, that's really what I set out to capture."
Having previously recorded many of the artists he featured on Electronola gave him the opportunity to reach out to friends and creative counterparts for the project. As the album's composer, producer, and keyboard performer, it was important for Scioneaux to find players that fit the spirit of the album.
"As a producer or a bandleader, you want to find musicians that not only can play, but who also have personalities that are amicable to creative collaboration on a project," he said. "And everybody was just awesome to work with."
His next Kickstarter project would be a greatest-hits tribute to the iconic, electronic duo Daft Punk—completely rearranged for an all-brass band. Written and recorded by Scioneaux, the album would soon catch the eye of Rachel Kane—a producer from the Chicago-based, electronic pioneer label TRAX Records. She reached out to Scioneaux and agreed to release Brassft Punk as well as his two previous albums with the label. He was later asked to perform the tribute album with his band at the popular North Coast and Hangout music festivals.
Nowadays, Scioneaux spends his time designing sound for virtual reality games, but hopes to get back to his performance roots. After touring around Japan as the accompanying pianist for a Southern-influenced gospel choir, and recording an album of jazz tunes written by and for the king of Thailand, Scioneaux has learned to appreciate the specialty of New Orleans music.
"Music here comes through in many ways; it's more interwoven into life in general," he said. "There's an openness to it where you may not be the greatest musician, but you can still end up playing. It's sort of like a potluck. Maybe no one person is a chef, but everyone brings something to the table. I don't know if that exist anywhere else."